INSPIRED IMPACT :: Jeffrey Katzman | Core Learning Exchange
INSPIRED IMPACT is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to mission-driven organizations and passionate leaders and entrepreneurs who are making an impact in their communities and industries.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
Core Learning Exchange (Core-LX) offers a “mastery” learning platform for use by K-12 educators. Our solution supports new innovative instructional methodologies like personalized learning, blended learning (that mixes live classroom work with technology delivered content), project-based and experiential learning methodologies with a sustainable and subversive business model which, at scale, disrupts the current broken system by aligning the educational ecosystem of procurement, curriculum, assessment, and technology to financially reward evidence-based results and innovation.
Mastery learning pioneered in the 1970s by noted researcher Benjamin Bloom begins with a benchmark assessment that sets the true baseline of learning for each student. Learning plans are personalized to match each student’s academic and social/emotional needs using micro-credential badges. Each student may have a different combination of badges based on assessed needs. Mastery learning measures growth and each student must master each skill before progressing; no student is ever “failed forward.”
Not only is each learning plan personalized, instructional delivery is also personalized to match the needs and preferences of each student’s learning style. Some students learn better with independent study, while other work better in groups. Some like video content, while others have highest engagement with project-based learning. In Core-LX, teachers create “playlists” of instructional activities mixed and matched from our comprehensive library of digital resources sourced from free Open Educational Resources (like Khan Academy and CK-12), commercial providers and teacher-generated content. In order to truly personalize learning, teachers need quick access to a broad spectrum of high quality resources. Where content doesn’t exist, teachers are armed with professional authoring and assessment development tools to enable them to create the next-generation of digital curriculum.
To create this diverse library of high quality resources needed to support personalized learning, Core-LX leverages a revenue-sharing business model. We charge schools a flat-rate per student subscription fee, and redistribute 60% of our subscription revenue back to providers in proportion to the level of usage. To ensure equity in access to all types of learners, Core-LX pays higher royalty rates to creators of content for students with special needs. In this model, schools only pay for resources they use and get value from.
Under the royalty model, which is supported by deep analytics and usage information, content providers are given the data they need to continually improve, innovate, and up their ratings and usage. When schools are both providers and subscribers in our platform, they get the double benefit of access to an ever increasing and ever improving curriculum, while earning royalties on their contributions, thus driving down costs.
Core-LX has a subversive agenda. We want the $64B spent annually on US K-12 curriculum to flow back to the educators who are making a difference in student’s lives. We aim to democratize the creation and distribution of the next generation of digital curriculum and create a new self-sustaining business model that supports mastery-based personalized learning models.
WHY DO YOU DO IT?
I am the father of two students and I have witnessed the irony having technology-savvy children lugging backpacks filled with outdated textbooks and photocopied assignments. After 50 years of stagnation, the US education system is at the cusp of a radical transformation. I find this moment very exciting! I was compelled to apply my experience and knowledge in corporate training to help re-imagine K-12 teaching and learning in the digital age. This is why I founded Core Learning Exchange.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
Impact on providers:
Our authoring tools enable providers to create innovative learning products and our marketplace provides distribution. With a revenue-share business model, these providers are freed from having to support a sales and marketing organization trying to penetrate a highly fragmented market that is fraught with arcane procurement rules. Because providers are (only) paid for resources that are used, they are incentivized to continually provide innovative learning products.
Impact on students:
Our current form of education is modeled on the factory: the students are grouped in a one-size-fits all cohort by age and move through school in lockstep. Students are not required to master skills before progressing and, often, students in difficulty are failed forward with gaps in their fundamentals. Over time, the cumulative effect of small failures in early skill development leads to catastrophic consequences; kids drop out of high school. With a mastery-based approach, diagnostic assessments determine the student’s true starting point, and students only advance they demonstrate mastery of a skill or concept. Student success and teacher efficacy are measured by the student’s growth, not by how they compare to other students of the same age. Also, Core-LX gives students a range of ways of learning that are best matched to needs.
Impact on teachers:
Rather than be a “sage on the stage,” using class time for instructional delivery, teachers can assign instructional delivery via interactive multimedia-based lessons as homework. In these classrooms, teachers have the opportunity to transform into “guides on the side,” assisting students individually, or supporting group collaborative projects. Core-LX provides teachers with the tools to offer personalize learning for all students, easily, intuitively, and without adding to the teachers’ workload. Teachers use data to identify students who need supplemental help, and those who need to accelerate – thereby providing each student with the right resources at the right time.
Impact on school administration and IT:
The current ecosystem of procurement, curriculum, assessment, and learning platforms is totally out of whack. It is inefficient, expensive, complicated, and ineffective. The process guarantees that the status quo will be maintained and students will be caught in the factory system.
Currently, a school district will purchase a learning system that is designed to improve the efficiency of the once-size-fits-all learning delivery model, guaranteeing that the factory approach will be further entrenched. They then procure dozens of curriculum and assessment products from a variety of providers, and must then tackle the nightmare of training, supporting and integrating this mish-mash of products, each with its own logins, data formats, and quirks. When schools buy curriculum, they typically pay for a ton of content and use but a fraction of it. Once the deal is signed and the invoice paid, the publisher has zero incentive to improve the quality of the offering.
Core-LX provides a learning platform that supports the new instructional models, offers schools the choice of best-of-breed content and assessment options, creates a system where content innovation and diversity are rewarded, enriches teachers’ classroom value, and provides better outcomes for students. One purchase covers all needs.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
I’m a dad with kids. In 2010, I was working at the last company I founded (Xyleme.com) to create innovative learning solutions for corporate training and education. During those years, my kids were coming home with backpacks laden with heavy, outdated textbooks and crumpled, poorly photocopied assignments. I would drop them at the bus, and have to take away their devices, which were forbidden at school. This was pretty bad, but the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was when my son got sick and missed about three weeks of school. Up to that point, he had been in the talented and gifted (TAG) program and had a love and curiosity for math. While he was sick, the factory conveyor belt kept moving, and, when he rejoined his class he’d missed some key, foundational concepts underlying the work they were doing. No one addressed this gap, and because he missed that content, he was totally lost as the class marched on to the new unit. He couldn’t follow in class or complete his homework. This once-confident student began to doubt his natural abilities and started to hate math. He was failed forward with serious gaps and was facing a cycle of repeated frustration and ultimate failure. If this approach to learning was failing my son, many others were also suffering. Out of my own frustration and concern, I hatched the concept of Core Learning Exchange.
WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
I want every student, of every ability, in every geography, to be able to learn what they need, when they need it, in the way that best suits them. I want innovative teachers, educators, and educational content developers to be financially rewarded. I want learning to be more effective, and lower cost.
WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
We need investment. We are completing an angel round in November 2017 and will begin a larger raise to be able to staff up our sales and marketing operations in time for the 2018-19 school year.
WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
Time and time again, we see requests for proposals for advanced, cloud-based learning technologies that require 150-page responses, printed in triplicate, mailed, and delivered to some procurement office by a deadline. Schools are conditioned to think in a very fragmented way and there seems to be no systematic approach to how a school buys its curriculum, assessments, and learning systems.
Investors hate K-12:
Noted local investor Brad Feld categorically rejects investing in K12 businesses (with the exception of entrepreneurs he already knows) which has put a chill on all investment in EdTech. This POV is pervasive. The general perception is that the market is too fragmented, procurement is too arcane, and schools are too slow to change. This is all true of course, but it negates the social impact, the fundamental needs of our economy, and the reality that the US education system is in the midst of a complete transformation. Current players will soon be displaced, putting $8B/year up for grabs. The plus side of the K-12 market is that it is immune to market forces and is very sticky. Wise investors see this.
WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
Have the wherewithal, tenacity, and financial resources to be alive long enough to have good timing.
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
We are looking for social impact investors to help us realize our vision. We are also always on the lookout for entrepreneurial educators who want to create original content, share it and earn royalties. Finally, we are looking for inspired teachers and educators to work with our platform to offer mastery-based personalized learning programs.
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